Farewell to the Circus

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[Once in awhile, I’ve motivated to post a thought or experience unrelated to my mobile life.]

On Saturday, April 1, granddaughters Dylan and Carson, wife Linda, and I drove to downtown Washington to see the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.  After 146 years of continuous service, delighting millions of people, especially children, “The Greatest Show on Earth” was folding the tent, and we watched one of the last performances of the farewell tour.  Before we left home, I told Linda I was likely to cry at the end.  I did.  I wept in the middle, too, and now, five days later, as I write this.

We knew it was the end.  The New York Times delivered the bad news some months ago.  On the circus website, CEO Kenneth Feld wrote, “After much evaluation and deliberation, my family and I have made the difficult business decision that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will hold its final performances in May of this year. Ringling Bros. ticket sales have been declining, but following the transition of the elephants off the road, we saw an even more dramatic drop. This, coupled with high operating costs, made the circus an unsustainable business for the company.”

The last show, themed “Out of This World,” was the sensational mix of acts (minus the beloved elephants) that made it “the Greatest Show on Earth” for decades.  The performers were not digital compositions nor recorded and replayed in front of us, but talented, committed, sentient fellow human beings who clearly loved what they did.  We applauded the clown; the aerialists; the Torres family from Paraguay with their motorcycle ballet inside a metal sphere; big-cat trainer Alexander Lacey; and so many more.

But as much as their dazzling work made us smile, I kept getting sad.  Sad because I had been attending the circus for more than 50 years, and taking children and grandchildren almost every year for nearly 3 decades.  Sad because live entertainment is so special, so different from the stuff on screens small and large.   Sad because a whole lot of folks will lose their jobs — not just the performers and their support teams, but food vendors and ushers, and others who depend on the circus.  What will happen to the Kazakh horse riders?  The clowns?  We can hope many will find other work, but perhaps not.

And I’m mad, at the people and groups who helped bring down a great institution.  If our granddaughters hadn’t been with us, I would have been inclined to put a cream pie in the face of the PETA jerks who were protesting, the self-righteous carrying signs that said “Ringling beats animals.” As a precedent matter, it seems counterintuitive that circus people would mistreat the animals on which they depend; indeed, there’s a rich array of fiction and nonfiction literature documenting the special bonds between circus animals and their keepers.

Our relationship with other species in the animal kingdom is complex, and PETA tries to pretend otherwise.  I am no deep ethical philosopher, but given the growing volume of research on social interaction in plant communities (see, for example, The Hidden Life of Trees) and the possibility of sentience in individual living flora, it seems pretty hard to draw distinctions, except on simplistic lines (e.g., the cuter the animal, the easier it is to defend; no one cares much about maggots).  As I am fond of saying to pre-empt the discussion, “carrots have feelings, too.”

As I wiped back tears, I wanted to jump onto the show floor to thank even just one performer for all the times that their work and that of their colleagues enriched our lives over all the years.

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The last appearance of the Ringling Bros. elephants, 2016

 

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Two Quick U.S. Trips: DeLand, Florida, and New York

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Spring blossoms, DeLand, Florida

I was home for most of March, teaching an intensive short course at Georgetown the week of March 6, then catching up.  On Friday, March 24, I hopped the Metro to the airport and flew south to Orlando, into early spring in Florida.  Pressed through the hordes of visitors headed to see Mickey, Minnie, et al., picked up a red Ford Mustang (for some reason, it was cheaper than the little cars I prefer, but still got north of 30 miles per gallon), and drove north 50 miles to DeLand.

DeLand is the total opposite of the image that “Florida” conjures: densely vertical beachfront cityscapes, choked freeways, odd politics.  There’s only one high-rise in the entire town of 30,000, a dorm for Stetson College, the former Baptist liberal arts school (enrollment = 3,000) that – together with Volusia County government – anchors the local economy.  No traffic jams, and 25 mph speed limits.  And a decidedly progressive vibe, thanks to plenty of academics.  The downtown is returning to life (albeit without much retail), and the old neighborhoods are filled with farmhouse style dwellings and lots of bungalows.  Plus, of course, the verdant vegetation that makes the state so special.  Not long after crossing the city limits I felt very relaxed indeed.

I was soon on N. Clara Avenue, hugging Magda, daughter of my longtime friend Herb Hiller.  It had been way too long, almost nine years, since I visited them, especially because Herb was a great mentor and friend when I was in grad school in the mid-1970s.  Now almost 86, he is still going strong, busy, focused, and articulate.  Herb was taking a nap, so after visiting briefly with Mag (talented in her own right, a great singer/songwriter) I plopped down on a couch, dogs Napoleon and Rooster on the floor beneath me.

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On the kitchen table: citrus from a backyard tree

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Rooster, one of three new BFFs

Herb’s wife Mary Lee arrived about 3:45, and we started the first of several wonderful conversations in their kitchen.  Herb joined us, as did Mag and her daughter Wyatt, already 14.  We talked and talked, ate a nice salad and Moroccan bean casserole.

Herb (who graduated from Harvard Law but never practiced) worked in Miami’s fast-growing tourism industry through the 1960s, then at the dawn of the mass cruise-ship trade, then into the Caribbean – all conventional models.  Herb and I have been long friends not least because we have for decades shared a vision of sustainable tourism based on a very different model of authentic local experiences.

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In the mid-1970s, when we advocated that approach, people thought we were nuts, or as Herb wrote at the time, “communists, vegetarians, Luddites.”  We don’t feel smug that our vision has come to be widely embraced, but we are certainly pleased.  So we talked a lot that weekend about tourism development (the topic of my Ph.D. dissertation), and Herb’s efforts to nurture small-scale tourism in rural Florida, much of which has been oriented to the bicycle.  We are, in brief, simpático.

Was up at dawn the next morning, out the door for a splendid amble around downtown and the neighborhoods north of the center, back for a cup of coffee, then back out with Mary Lee and the dogs for their A.M. constitutional.  We met friend Dave, visited the art studio of Tony Eitharong (where Dave helps out part time), and headed home for a bowl of oatmeal.  Herb and I yakked a bit, headed out to buy some beer, then west to the St. John’s River, Florida’s 300-mile wide waterway (for years Herb and Mary Lee lived on an island in the river north of DeLand, where it’s called Lake George).  Yakked some more on the riverbank, then back into town for a quick wander around the Stetson campus and a serendipitous chat with another colleague (you could tell we were in a small place!).

Florida like it used to be:

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In the artist’s studio

After a tonic nap, we drove south a few miles to Cassadaga, a former “spiritual encampment” (think psychics and such) for dinner at Sinatra’s, in the old hotel (which regularly offered séances and the like).  Back home, Mag baked cookies for dessert, more yakking, and off to sleep.  Sunday morning, another walk, without and with the dogs.  At 10:30, longtime friend, former island neighbor, and lawyer Bill arrived with some legal documents to sign.  We had breakfast of homemade raisin bread, a meal that conjured memories of wonderful repasts at Herb’s old house in Coconut Grove, Miami, and a good yak with Bill, a native Floridian (it’s always great to meet those folks, rare the state).

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At noon, I hugged Herb, Mary Lee, Magda, and even the dogs (including Mag’s cute Stevie), hopped in the Mustang, drove south to the airport, and flew home.  A great visit with a wonderful comrade.

The last travel of the quarter was a day trip to New York for a video interview for a consulting client.  It hopped but and Metro to Union Station, and onto the 8:10 train.  It had been about two years since I rode Amtrak, and I growled to myself as we formed a long line to board the train, contrasting too much control (queueing, and ticket checks, ostensibly for security) with the openness of European train stations.  The Berlin Hauptbahnhof is arguably as vulnerable to terrorist attack as Washington Union Station, but the platforms are completely open.

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The tracks were as bumpy as ever, but the train was on time and spotlessly clean inside.   The ride is not especially scenic, but there were moments: crossing the Susquehanna River at the top end of Chesapeake Bay; apple trees in blossom along the Schuylkill River just north of center-city Philadelphia; and the brilliant contrast between the flat, empty wetlands east of Newark and the soaring Manhattan skyline on the horizon.

Arrived New York Penn Station on time at 11:21 and walked a few blocks north to Han Bat, a Korean restaurant I’ve enjoyed a few times over the last 25 years.  At 11:40, my friend-since-1961 Tim Holmes joined me, and we tucked into a spicy lunch (kimchee and more) and a lot of banter, jumping through five-plus decades, back to sixth-grade art appreciation with Miss Feltl, forward to his music-writing gig for Sony (he just finished a press release marking Loretta Lynn’s 85th birthday).  Tim always marched to a slightly different drummer, and I’ve long appreciated his perspectives on life, society, and politics.   An hour or so later we ambled up Sixth Avenue to my gig and parted.  As I have written many times, it’s a great joy to stay connected with long friends.  On the way north, I gave an attaboy to a young guy who thumped the back of a van that had driven through a red light.  The driver stopped, and a lively exchange ensued.  The kid struck a blow for order in the face of chaos.  Excellent!

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The video production crew had set up in the Presidential Suite of the New York Sheraton, which would have been posh save for all their kit, duct tape on floors, etc.  For the first time in my episodic on-camera career, a tech applied face make up (whew!), and off we went.  Took 30 minutes, slam dunk.  At 2:15, I met an airline colleague for a coffee in the lobby, a nice chat, then walked south on Seventh Avenue, through the circus of Times Square, and on to Penn Station.  Geographers like all places, but each of us gets one pass, and I always use mine in The City That Never Sleeps.  Just too frenzied and uncivil.

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The sign business: a growth industry in Times Square

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Hopped the 4:05 train back to Washington.  My client kindly upgraded me to business class, where the seats and amenities were identical to coach, which got me to musing about the last time I was in “business class” on a U.S. train: summer 1962, to and from visiting relatives in Chicago, aboard the Milwaukee Road’s Hiawatha streamliner.  It was called the parlor car back then, and as I lurched home I did some Googling; sure enough, found two images of the Hiawatha’s “Skytop” parlor car, lovingly restored by a group in Minnesota.  Trust me, the parlor car looked nothing like where I was sitting:

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Thanks to Railroading Heritage of Midwest America for this memory!

Waiting for the Metro home, I had a nice T-t-S with a North Carolina family.  As I always do when I see visitors who seem lost, I asked if I could help.  They were completely turned around.  But they were going where I was going, so I simply said, “Follow me.”  We had a nice visit while waiting for the train and on board.

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A Week of Teaching in London and Oxford

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Rural England?  No, Richmond Park within metropolitan London

I was home from Germany but nine days, and on February 19 flew to London, arriving in Monday morning rush hour.  Hopped on the Underground at Heathrow (cueing the Beatles into my ears, as I always do), changed trains twice, and was soon at the Kew Gardens station.  I was bound not for botany, but the home of Carolyn and Omar Merlo, the latter my long host at Imperial Business School, and, more, a good friend.  The Merlos moved into a larger house a year earlier, and invited me to stay on a short trip back then; this six-night invitation was hugely generous.  I arrived in time to walk the kids, Sophie, 8, and Frederik, 6, to the Queen’s Church of England School a few blocks north and west.  Leading the parade was their new golden retriever puppy Mr. Waffles, 12 weeks old.  He was a magnet of attention.  I met a few moms that I met before (school was still in session at the end of June 2016).  Walked back, changed into jeans, and zipped out on Omar’s mountain bike, north into Richmond and the vast Richmond Park.  It’s like being in the country.

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Mr. Waffles

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Sophie’s welcome

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Pathway on the south bank of the Thames near Putney

Past noon I suited up and headed out.  First stop was lunch at Masala Zone in Earl’s Court, a frequently-visited venue in London; it’s a chain, but the food is good and you can have a sort of sampler plate (called a thali).  Zipped east on the Tube and at 2:45 met friend Jan Meurer, retired from years at KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.  He was curious about my classroom gigs, so I had invited him to team teach a class in the air transport program at Cranfield University, 50 miles northwest of London.  It was my third visit but his first, and first in any classroom anywhere.  My role over a cup of coffee at Euston Station was to calm his butterflies!

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I’ve long admired the Tube workers who do stuff like this!

A school driver met us at Milton Keynes station and provided useful running commentary on MK, a “new town” of about 300,000 (I had been there several times, but his knowledge was great).  At Cranfield, we met Prof. Pere Suau-Sanchez, a friendly Catalan.  Pere provided his personal assessment of Brexit, with Jan lobbing in a few thoughts – it’s been interesting to get the non-British perspective, which is generally “why did they do that?”  Jan and I agreed that the class would be a non-lecture, each of us speaking for 5 minutes, then the remaining 100 for student questions and comments.  It worked superbly, his European perspective providing a nice counterpoint to my U.S. view.  Students mobbed us afterwards.  Taxi back to MK, fast train to London, hug at the station, and onto the Overground train home to Kew, plumb wore out.

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Jan Meurer’s professorial debut; he’s a natural

Up Tuesday morning for a long visit with Carolyn’s mum Maureen, visiting from Melbourne, Australia (I met her in 2016).  Walked with the kids and Mr. Waffles to school, ate a bowl of cereal, did a bit of work in my room, and headed out.  I had not ever been on the campus of University College London (two days hence I would lecture at UCL, but on a different campus), so I spent a couple of hours wandering around.  At one point I found myself in the Physics building, a place with lots of history, not least good Professor Higgs, who discovered the subatomic particle named for him.  The corridor hummed, not with brainpower (although that seemed likely), but with lots of equipment inside locked laboratories.  I spotted something called the Optical Tweezer Lab.  Say what?  Curious, I looked it up on Wikipedia: a tightly focused laser beam capable of holding microscopic particles stable in three dimensions.  Little tweezers!  In a main building I spotted the names of Joseph Lister and Jeremy Bentham, just two of many famous scholars at UCL.  Way cool.

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Mr. Waffles’ teething, and a close call!

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Sophie and Freddie

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University College London

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Because my new iPhone has lots of memory I have downloaded more apps useful for travel, including one for the London bikeshare system; and because T-Mobile provides free data in 140 countries I could hire a red bike from my phone, and did so at UCL, riding two miles south to my lunch date with David Holmes at The Wolseley, where we had eaten several times before.  A repast with David, who had a long career with the U.K. Department of Transport and British Airways (where I met him in 1994), has been an annual tradition for nearly a decade, much anticipated, for he is another of my many windows on Britain.  We caught up on family, Brexit, U.S. politics, and more.  As always with David, I learned lots of stuff, for example, that King George III, who Americans revile and who was not much better regarded in Britain, is currently being “rehabilitated.”  Maybe not so bad, the thinking goes, for his willingness to learn English (previous monarchs from the House of Hanover spoke German), support for the emerging sciences, and other positives (I wasn’t convinced, but listened attentively).  David also has a fine ability to recall curious phrases from his past: he told me about a senior civil servant who, on the eve of discussions with a U.S. delegation, described Americans as “deeply alien”!  All in all a fine lunch and stimulating banter.

We parted at 2:45 and I hired a bike for a two-mile ride east to my 18th visit to the London School of Economics.  Traffic was absolutely nuts, which required both defensive cycling and some bold (though wholly legal) moves.  At 3:30, met a new LSE host Rocco Macchiavello, then delivered a two-hour presentation on airline revenue management.  Peeled off after six, onto the Tube and home to Kew.  Dinner was at Tap on the Line in Kew, the only licensed pub on a London Underground platform; tucked into a pint and a yummy pork pie with mashed potatoes and buttered kale (also trendy in Britain!).  The Merlos head to bed early, and I joined that routine.

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The view from the handlebars; cycling in London means keep your wits about you!

Up early Wednesday morning and out the door before the kids, with Omar to Imperial for a full day of three lectures, a total of six hours to stand and deliver.  A long day, needless to say, and I was happy at 6:15 PM to zip down Prince’s Gate to South Kensington, Tube to Victoria Station and a suburban train south to Clapham Junction.  A few minutes before seven I was at an agreeable small Italian restaurant and hugging a longtime American Airlines colleague, Denise Lynn, and her husband Danny.  Denise, a native of England, had been working a six-month temporary assignment as head of HR for Virgin Atlantic Airways (her boss, CEO Craig Kreeger, is a long mutual friend).  We had a fine dinner, and got caught up after about four years.  Lots to talk about.  Home by ten and fast asleep.

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Brainpower at Imperial College London: the robot can play ice hockey!

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I have long admired late Victorian and Edwardian architecture, especially polychrome brick

Back to school-walk routine Thursday morning, then home to work.  Suited up and out the door at 11, south to the suburban rail station at North Sheen, east to Vauxhall on the south bank, and a mile south to lunch at a longtime fave Indian restaurant, Hot Stuff.  I had not been there for almost two years, but owner Raj Dawood remembered me, and we had a nice yak.  He had suffered a lot of misfortune in the interim, losing his grandmother, his mom (who founded Hot Stuff in 1985), and two kids.  And he was limping with gout.  It’s hard to deliver sympathy to a person you don’t know well, but I did my best, offering prayers for comfort and reminding myself of my good fortune.  Tucked into a spicy chicken dish and lots of naan.

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Raj Dawood of Hot Stuff

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Land values are making Lambeth vertical; indeed, Raj reckons he’ll be squeezed out in two years

Said goodbye to Raj, and as I walked away I almost tripped over Owen’s dog Biscuit.  Who’s Owen?  Another stranger, of course.  We chatted a bit in front of Hot Stuff, and he asked me where I was headed.  I told him the Tube station at Oval, a mile east, and he offered to lead me there.  We had a great yak.  Owen was in his mid-70s, had lived in Lambeth for more than 50 years, and thus had seen a lot of change.  Two datapoints: his father bought a row house in the 1960s for £18,000; the houses lining the streets on our path were now selling for £1.2 to 1.5 million.  Owen was a lifelong builder; his father emigrated from Jamaica.  A nice stroll.

Hopped the Tube east and north to Canary Wharf, the high-rise office complex east of central London that looks a lot like a U.S. downtown.  Up 38 floors to the new “campus” of the University College London School of Management to deliver a one-hour lecture in Omar’s core-marketing class from 3:00 to 4:00.  Worked for a couple of hours, admired the stunning views of the city, took a quick nap sitting up, and repeated the lecture at 6:30.  We zipped out at 7:45 and home to Kew, in time to read Sophie three chapters in a book (on my visit the previous summer I apparently made an impression as an expressive reader!).

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The west view from Canary Wharf

Up Friday morning, now firmly in the family routine, off to school with Sophie, Freddie, and Mr. Waffles.  On the way to school, Sophie asked if I would read more chapters that night, and I replied that we would finish the book.  She smiled.  Hopped onto the Tube, east to Gloucester Road.   It was the first sunny day since Monday, and a good time to bike a few miles, even in coat and tie, so I hopped on a red shared bike and set off through Kensington Gardens and Green Park.  Stopped briefly to say thanks at the memorial to the RAF Bomber Command, admiring Churchill’s words from September 1940: “The fighters are our salvation, but the bombers alone provide the means of victory.”

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Mr. Waffles slowing traffic!

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Part of a large bronze in the Bomber Command Memorial

I rode on up the slope to Notting Hill, arriving at a pleasant fish restaurant 20 minutes early.  I sat at the bar and thumbed through a book on English watercolors, filled with splendid work.  It was one of those moments when to celebrate our long cultural heritage and hope we are able to persist as a species, if only so talented artists can create more works of beauty.

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William Turner of Oxford, “Donati’s Comet,” 1859; coincidentally, the original is two blocks from son Jack, in the Yale Center for British Art

At 12:30, met young friend and mentee Scott Sage (frequently in these pages) and Sir Geoffrey Owen, my original host at the LSE.  I had wanted to get those two together for awhile, and was glad I got to be there.  Sir Geoffrey knows a ton about the U.K. economy and in 2015 published a book on the high-tech sector, a focus of Scott’s investment expertise.  We talked along those lines, as well as politics here and in the U.S., and a sobering few minutes on how people displaced by technological advance will find new work.  A totally stimulating conversation, one we could have continued, but Scott had an appointment and I had a third class at UCL, so we parted.

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Zipped across London by Tube and delivered another quick talk; the two classes the previous day were mostly comprised of East Asian students, but this class was virtually 100% Chinese.  A little way into the talk, I noticed in the second row a plump fellow texting.  I called it out, and he looked mad; by his attitude he appeared to be one of the highly privileged.  Toward the end of the talk, he was back texting again.  After questions and applause, as students departed, I confronted him for his rudeness.  I generally let those things slide, but simply could not.  I pointed out that I was there as a volunteer.  His apology was insincere.  Grrrrrrr.

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The east view from the UCL B-school “campus” on the 38th floor

Omar had some additional work, so I peeled off.  The Jubilee (Tube) Line was closed, so I took a rather circuitous route home (Omar opted for Uber).  Omar made a wonderful pasta dinner for the family, and we had a splendid time before and during the meal.  It is so nice to stay with a family.  After dinner, as promised, I read Sophie the remainder of her book, and kissed her goodnight.  She would be at Olivia’s house for a pajama party the next night, so I told her I’d see her again later in the year.  Everyone was headed to sleep, and I joined the procession, because Saturday would start early.

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Friday commuters on the London Overground

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Sophie and Omar on the piano, top, and her cardboard rocket, created for Olivia’s “space party” sleepover

Early, as in 5:40.  Out the door, onto the Tube toward Paddington Station.  Along the way, some delays, and had I not been able to use my iPhone to access the Internet, I would have missed the 7:21 train to Oxford (thanks T-Mobile, again!).  Happily, I made it with five minutes to spare.  Arrived Oxford about 8:15, well before the 9:30 start to “Oxford Inspires,” a conference on entrepreneurship at the Saïd Business School where I was due to speak.  So I headed for a short ramble about town, my first visit since 1977.  Made it to Christ Church College, which is where David Holmes studied.  Grabbed a coffee and a sweet pastry and ambled back to the B-school.

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People began to arrive, and I struck up a nice conversation with Giles, a young high-tech fellow from the West Midlands (one little piece: his father worked for the British Railways prior to and during privatization, and as a kid Giles had the rail equivalent of the free airline travel that our kids enjoyed).  We covered a lot of ground in a short while, and soon were joined by V.R. Raghavan, a retired lieutenant-general in the Indian Army.  His daughter Nina was attending the conference and he “tagged along.”  Great conversation, including some wonderful glimpses of modern management in a major armed force.  Soon Dagmar, an Oxford Ph.D. in computer science joined.  Whew, a great start.  I attended a morning session on social-impact investing, listening to presentations from a woman whose company finds work for women after they leave prison; a wheelchair user who started an Airbnb-like service for mobility-compromised travelers; and a Somali who built an economical way for migrant workers to remit funds home.

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Said Business School, University of Oxford

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Yakked with several youngsters during lunch, and from 2:00 to 4:00 was part of a session on marketing and products, though my talk focused on managing in turbulent times.  Unhappily, during the panel discussion the moderator kept asking his questions rather than welcoming audience queries, but it still worked.  Last session was a keynote from Matt Clifford, of Entrepreneur First, a company that supports engineers and computer scientists to build tech companies from scratch.  Matt graduated from Cambridge in medieval history (proving my point that specialized knowledge can be overrated), and delivered a brilliant talk called “The Disruption of Ambition.”  He told about “technologies of ambition,” from literacy to military education, to management education.  Matt said “Power used to lie in the hands of people writing cheques; now it’s in the hands of writing code.”  Whew.  The day ended with refreshments, and lots of youngsters sought me ought for varied advice, mostly on studies and career.  Hopped the train home with a “laptop” dinner of sandwiches and salad.  The Merlo house was already quiet at 8:45.

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The luxurious life of the itinerant professor: laptop repast on the train

Up at seven Sunday morning, cup of coffee, hugs to Carolyn and Omar, and out the door toward Heathrow.  Standing on the above-ground Tube platform at Kew I gave thanks for friends like them.  It was pure joy to stay with a family for six days, to get in their rhythms and learn from them.  Flew to Kennedy, then on to Washington, and was home by 5:15.

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jan-feb-routes

Travels in January and February

 

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Teaching in Germany, via Paris

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The skyline of Cologne, Germany, including the huge Dom begun in 1248 and completed in 1880

On Saturday, February 4, I headed to Europe for the 180th time.  But it’s still so exciting to cross the Atlantic.  Flew to JFK, then, although bound for Germany, to Paris to visit the fourth bar, Comptoir Voltaire, that terrorists attacked in November 2015. Regular readers may recall that in July 2016 I planned to visit all four but only made it to three.

Arrived Charles de Gaulle early, at six, and was on a RER suburban train soon after.  Stashed my suitcase and laptop in a locker at Gare de l’Est, the station from which I would depart five hours later, then picked up a Velib shared bike (bought a day pass for the equivalent of $1.92 online the day before).  It was still dark, and Paris was still asleep, which made for a pleasant and quiet ride. It reminded me of the voice on an American Airlines TV commercial promoting our Europe services; our jets were landing in Paris (and other places) “just as the city starts to stir.”  Rode to the bar to locate it, then headed south a couple miles to Coulée verte René-Dumont, a pedestrian and bikeway on a former railway that was one of the inspirations for New York’s High Line.  Gliding past other early-morning riders, I was reminded of a swell quotation from H.G. Wells: “When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the human race.”  Amen to that!

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My trusty steed at Gare de l’Est

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While doing a yo-yo on the trail, it started raining, lightly at first, then pelting.  By the time I circled back to Comptoir Voltaire, I was wet (the Gore-Tex coat helped, but my head and lower legs were soaked).  But it was warm and friendly inside, lots of regulars greeting the barman with a smile and handshake.  Had a café au lait and dried off a bit.  Before leaving,  showed the barman my iPhone with the following in French, thanks to Google translate (I did the same thing, with a shorter message, last July):

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Morning customers watching the news at Comptoir Voltaire

Good morning.  I’m very glad to visit Comptoir Voltaire for the first time.  I’m here to enjoy a cup of coffee, and to remember the people who were injured here in the terrorist attacks of November 2015.  I worked for American Airlines for 22 years, and was there on 11 September 2001, so I am well familiar with terrorism.  But we are not afraid, because if we fear, then the terrorists win.  And they will not win.

He read it, shook my hand, and wished me a pleasant day (in French, naturellement).  Back on the Velib, in lighter rain, toward the railway station.  About a half-mile south, the rain stopped, so I changed direction, following the Canal St. Martin south, past the Theater Bataclan – site of the worst carnage in the terrorist attacks – to the Bastille, then on to the River Seine.  Rode west past Notre Dame, then back north to the station.  A fine morning in a city that is so visual and so majestic, even in the dumpier parts.  There’s no place like it.   I was feeling young.  And connected, thanks to changing wireless providers, from AT&T to T-Mobile, which offers unlimited data and texts in France and 139 other countries (as well as voice calls home for 20 cents a minute vs. $2).  Cool!

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The new normal: the French Army at the railway station

At 1:01 the Deutsche Bahn ICE to Frankfurt rolled out, and pretty soon we were at 320 km/hr (about 200 mph, zippy).  Ate sandwiches I bought in the station, read The New York Times on my iPhone, and brought this journal up to date.  Crossed the border that flipped-flopped several times in recent centuries and arrived Kaiserslautern, Germany, at 3:30.  Got on a branch-line train at four, down a narrow valley, very scenic, into the Nahe Valley, and finally to the Rhine at Bingen, just downstream from Mainz.  Arrived Koblenz at six, walked to the hotel, and took a much-needed shower and a 20-minute nap.

At 7:30 I ambled a few blocks to the Altes Brauhaus, a swell bar and restaurant that’s been in business for 328 years, so they know how to serve a beer and a plate of food.  The place was surprisingly empty.  Sat down, had a couple of beers and a plate of (cold) herring and fried potatoes.  Yum!  Back to the hotel and asleep by ten, all the way through to seven.  No time-zone woes, nice.

 

Out the door Monday morning and onto the bus across the river to WHU, a private business school I had visited 12 times before, including a stop at their graduate campus in Düsseldorf seven weeks earlier.  On a walk around the small town of Vallendar, I looked down and saw four stolpersteine, remembering four murdered in Treblinka.

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The two classes weren’t until the afternoon, so I worked the morning, and at lunch met two longtime WHU friends, Heidi Heidrun and Susan Boedeker.  I see Heidi once a year, but hadn’t seen Susan for about six years, and it was good to catch up.  At 1:30 I met my new host, Raphael Silberzahn, a friendly young guy filling in for my usual colleague Jochen.  Delivered two talks on leadership and at seven hopped the bus home.  Worked a bit, changed clothes, and at eight walked back to the Altes Brauhaus to meet Raphael (we planned to eat at another place, but it was closed Mondays).  Tucked into an enormous plate of venison stew with spätzle and red cabbage, really good and really a lot.  Even better, a long chat with Raphael, a seriously interesting guy.  We yakked about a lot of stuff, including his recent unpleasant academic experience in Spain, his research, his entrepreneurial bent, and more.  A nice evening.

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Old and new on the WHU campus, Vallendar

Up Tuesday morning, repeat Monday, except class was in the morning.  Walking up the hill to the campus, I spotted four more stolpersteine.  The Nazis murdered three of four of the Loeb family on Wilhelm-Ross Strasse, parents Felix and Flora and younger daughter Martha; Anna, born 1923, somehow managed to flee to Belgium, then on to the United States.  I thought of the Loebs a few hours later, when at lunch I read in The New York Times that police arrested 20 rabbis obstructing traffic at Trump Tower.  They were protesting Trump’s order restricting Muslim immigration.  Rabbi Jill Jacobs said, “We remember our history, and we remember that the borders of this country closed to us in 1924 with very catastrophic consequences during the Holocaust.”  Memory is a good thing.

Finished class at 11:15, worked a bit, grabbed lunch in the Mensa, and got on the train back to Koblenz, then south.  The Rhine Valley south of Koblenz is of storybook quality, with steep slopes, cliffs, hilltop castles, and picturesque villages.  I shot a video on the iPhone to send Dylan and Carson, updated this journal, and worked a bit.  Arrived Stuttgart at 4:22. The 4:52 local south to Reutlingen canceled, slowing things a bit, but was working in my hotel room by 6:30.  Met my longtime friend Oliver Götz from Reutlingen University’s B-school at 8:15 and tucked into a light dinner (I’ve been eating plenty).  Slept hard.

Up and out the door, on foot up the hill to the university Wednesday morning (it was my fourth visit in under two years, so I knew the way).  On the way, a nice walk through the old town, passing through two ancient gates, the Gartentor and the Tübinger Tor:

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I love cooked kale, grünkohl, but had never seen it for sale raw

Worked a couple hours in the Mensa, and from 11:30 to 1:00 gave a lecture to a quite diverse group of marketing students: half from Germany and kids from Mexico, Bolivia, Costa Rica, the USA, Pakistan, Korea, China, and more.  Oliver peeled off to a meeting and I got the bus down the hill, picked up my suitcase at the hotel, changed clothes, and ambled to the train station.  Late lunch al fresco on platform 1, then onto the 2:48 local back to Stuttgart, then a fast ICE north to Cologne.  The wi-fi was not working, so I couldn’t get some needed work done.   The ICE track between Frankfurt Airport and Cologne parallels an autobahn, and it’s always cool to see the 180 mph train zooming past cars – even tricked-out Porsches – like they’re standing still.

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Terraced vineyards near Stuttgart

On the connecting train north to Münster, somewhere between Wuppertal and Hagen, my brain locked up, but positively, on the following simple thought: What I Get to See.  The privilege of mobility, it’s such a blessing.  Arrived Münster about 30 minutes late.  Got to the hotel (I normally stay with Airbnb host Svenja, but this was just one night), dropped my bag, and walked briskly toward Altes Gasthaus Leve, long a favorite restaurant.  I tried to visit on my December trip, but the place gets booked months in advance of Advent and the city’s popular Christmas markets, so I hadn’t been since 2012. Lunch was late but small, and I was way hungry.  Tucked in, maybe too much, but it was really good.

Up Thursday morning, a bit of work, then some meetings with doctoral students Julian Allendorf and others.  Pizza lunch, walked back to the train station, and headed south to Cologne.  It was a long way to go for short meetings, but I kept a promise.  Arrived Cologne at four, and checked into the youth hostel in Deutz, across the river from the center.  It was my first hostel stay since 2009, and that was at the same place, a quite new and very convenient place.  I was looking to save a few dollars, and to link to my past, because youth hosteling was one of the activities that expanded my horizon as a teenager, and because I had served on the USA youth hosteling association board of directors for nine years in the 1990s (as “compensation” for my service, I received lifetime membership, and when I checked in I showed my card).

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Audis whizzing north for export

They were installing wi-fi in the building, and it was only working on the main floor, so I grabbed my laptop and headed down to a table and bench to do some work.  Swirls of teenagers on school trips swirled around.  Then a wonderful T-t-S: a little girl about seven walked up to me, hovering right over my computer, and began speaking, in German of course.  I mustered my best skills, and we were able to have a little chat.  I vividly remember the last such encounter, in Vietnam in November 2010, and recalled what worked well was to scroll through family photos on my iPhone.  So out came Dylan and Carson, then Robin and Jack, then Linda, then Henry and MacKenzie.  After about five minutes, her mother and grandmother appeared.  They spoke some English, so we filled in the blanks.  The little girl was Viola.  I told her, auf Deutsch, that she had a pretty name.  She proudly spelled it for me, V-I-O-L-A.  Then said auf Wiedersehen.

Took a short nap, and walked a block to the tram, riding across the Rhine to the Altstadt, the old city.  At 7:15, met Jan-Marc, an undergrad at the University of Cologne and one of the heads of the student business association, at Gilden im Zims, one of the city’s oldest bars – from the 13th Century.  The place celebrates “Heroes of Cologne” with a series of large black-and-white pictures on the walls and messages on the little glasses (by tradition, the local beer style, Kölsch, is served in 20 centiliter (6.7 ounce) glasses).  I had visited once before, and again admired the photo of Konrad Adenauer, a former mayor of Cologne, but more important the first Chancellor of the postwar federal republic.  I often think of Adenauer, leading the rebuilding of a country and economy flattened by the Nazis’ horrific wrong turn. (Indeed, while I waited for Jan-Marc near the entry, I noticed behind me a photo of Gilden in spring 1945 – buildings on either side destroyed, but the bar still standing tall.)

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At Gilden, beer is still tapped from oak kegs

We got to know each other, and talked about future guest presentations.  His friend Kevin arrived, in high spirits because he had just written his last exam and only had to prepare a thesis to graduate.  The topic then moved to Carnival, the annual big party in Cologne, and the anecdotes reinforced my belief that this is one of the party capitals of the world.  Soon Tina and Johanna, Kevin’s roommates, joined.  In a small world moment, Johanna had just finished at ESB, the school I visited the day before, and her adviser was my host Oliver.  I tucked into a traditional Cologne meal, Himmel und Erd (“Heaven and Earth”), blood sausages with mashed potatoes and a little side of apple compote, yum.  The youngsters were staying on, but I departed at 9:30, walked across the Rhine, and fell hard asleep.

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Up at 6:30, four-minute walk to the train, onto the 7:13 ICE to Frankfurt and the flight home.

 

 

 

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Three Short Trips to Start 2017

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Entry, Trinity Lutheran Church, Orange Street, New Haven

The New Year got off to a mobile start.  On January 1, I drove to the Metro (Linda would pick up the car later), hopped the train, flew to Chicago, and picked up a rental car, headed to a New Year’s Day party at Cousin Donna’s house.  Had the first Talking to Strangers episode of 2017 before noon, a nice exchange with the smiling young African-American woman at the Budget exit gate.  No one was behind me, so we yakked for a minute or two, me telling her my destination, she asking if was gonna cut loose on the dance floor, and on from there.

I took local routes north and west to Cousin Jim’s house.  He was out for a run, so wife Michaela and I yakked (we had seen them a week earlier, when they visited Michaela’s sister’s family nearby in Washington).  Several DVDs needed to be returned to the public library, and I needed some air, so hopped on Michaela’s bike and rode off, then zipped around town for six miles.

After three we headed a few blocks to Donna’s and Tim’s house.  Five of my Aunt Sally and Uncle Bapper’s six kids live within a mile of each other in suburban Arlington Heights, and they were all there, with spouses and most of their offspring.  I had not seen some of the kin, including Donna, for about seven years, and it was splendid to reconnect with all.  Nice beer, good food, and a lot of laughs.  Bapper suffered a stroke and was seriously disabled when Jim was 13 and the youngest, John (who lives in Fort Worth, Texas) was 6, and the challenges in that household created enormous solidarity and love.  It’s always a joy to see people who overcame serious family issues.  Solid.

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Cousin Bob, hamming for the camera

Up early Monday morning and out the door, east six miles to Cousin Larry and Judy.  Lorenzo is a first cousin once removed, the youngest son of Alice, my maternal grandfather’s only sister (b. 1898).  We’ve been reconnected for several years, and it’s a joy to know him.  Judy suggested we head out to breakfast, and tucked into big meals at a popular pancake house in Glenview.  Was fun to catch up with them, and to meet Blackie, their new dog, rescued at age seven.  Hugged ‘em both, and drove back to O’Hare.

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Larry is a wonderful artist, and I spotted this etching, based on an old photo of my great-uncle Frank (b. 1892), great-aunt Alice (Larry’s mom, b. 1898), and my grandpa Jim (b. 1894)

The same woman who checked me out the day before checked me in, and wanted to know about the party.  “Did you drink a lot?” she asked.  “And what about that dancing?”  I told her the day before that my knees kept me from getting down, and as I departed she said she’d come along next year and help me with some steps.  Such fun to engage with people who are often made to feel anonymous.  Flew home, landing in the rain, a good start to the year.

Two weeks later, on another rainy day, flew to Dallas/Fort Worth, headed the next day to the memorial service for Liener Temerlin, a legend in U.S. advertising.  The Dallas ad agencies that Liener led (which changed names a bunch through the years) had American Airlines as a client from 1980 until 2015, one of the longest agency runs among any big company anywhere – and they kept the business in large measure because Liener worked hard to keep the business he pitched decades ago.  Liener took a shine to me during my first stint in AA’s ad department, 1990-93.  I don’t and can’t know all the ways he supported my career, but I know he helped several times.  Saying goodbye at his memorial just fit.

Although I’m pretty good at Talking to Strangers, sometimes I get the timing wrong, and I wished I had begun yakking with my seatmate earlier in the flight to DFW.  Commander Brown of the Royal Australian Navy was returning to Canberra after a three-year stint in Washington.  He and his family lived less than a mile from us, and I wished I had met him earlier.  A really interesting fellow, and a reminder that we need committed military leaders like him.

Landed at 5:30, picked up a rental car, and zipped east and north to our old neighborhood.  Stopped at a Kroger to buy flowers for my overnight hosts, Kim and Adam Pitluk, and while waiting to pay had another brief T-t-S that was so emblematic of Texans’ warmth and friendliness.  The African-American man in front of me had huge bags of collard and mustard greens, and a big smoked pork shoulder, fixings for a nice side dish.  “Man,” I opened, “I want to come to your house tomorrow.”  He replied, “come on, then”!  We yakked about his recipe (“might start the slow cooker tonight”), about the party (the Dallas Cowboys were playing Green Bay), and the guests.  Nice.

At seven at one of our old neighborhood faves, Rockfish Seafood Grill, I met Roger Tremblay, a longtime publishing exec turned media-business headhunter.  His wife Gayle was with their daughter in Austin, so a late ask worked out perfectly.  We yakked for two hours, ate some fish, and laughed a lot.  Roger has had a varied and interesting career, publisher of Chicago, one of the best city magazines around, sales exec for Sports Illustrated (which landed the Brittons a trip to the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002), and more.  A genuinely nice guy.  As we parted, he said he hoped I’d mention him in this journal, and I responded, “with pleasure!”  At 9:15 I drove to the Pitluks.  Adam and I yakked for 45 minutes and I clocked out.

Up at seven, down to the kitchen for a yak with Maddy, age 11, Kim, and Adam.  After Kim left to drive Maddy to Sunday School, Adam and I yakked more.  He has a lot of stories from his fine work in journalism (he was editor of American’s inflight magazine, American Way, for eight years, and by far the finest editor among the four or five I met over almost three decades).  And some remarkable family stories: both paternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors.  Grandmother lived through Auschwitz.  Grandfather and his brother jumped off a train headed to the Bialystock camp; brother was immediately shot, but grandpa escaped, and scavenged in a forest for three years.  Whew.  Lily, age eight, came down and we chatted about art, elephants, and more before Adam drove her to Sunday School (coincidentally, both kids headed to Temple Emanu-El, venue of Liener’s memorial that afternoon).

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Lily and her blue bear

The house was empty, save for a plump cat and their new puppy Dusty.  I ate some breakfast, and at nine drove east to our old (2007-12) neighborhood in Allen, then south to the Richardson neighborhood where the kids grew up (1987-2007).  Brought this journal up to date to a Starbucks, and at 11:30 motored south to lunch at Spring Creek Barbeque with longtime AA pal Ken Gilbert. Tucked into smoked turkey with sides, and a lot of fine banter.

I expected to see a lot of old friends at Liener’s service, and it started in the parking lot, greeting Liener’s longtime business partner Dennis McClain.  There were lots more inside, including my old boss Bob Crandall and wife Jan (it was comforting to feel him squeeze my upper arm tightly, a gesture he did many times when we were at the airline); one of my AA ad colleagues, Ann White (Bob, Ann, and I were the only former AA clients); and lots of folks from Liener’s and Dennis’ ad agency.

Before three, we entered a beautiful sanctuary, with a huge glass wall behind the pulpit and Torah.  It was just a stunning space (after the service, I told the presiding rabbi, David Stern, that I believed a nonbeliever could enter that temple and be transformed to a believer, just by its simple beauty).

The memorial service perfectly reflected a remarkable man.  After a series of piano pieces, mainly show tunes (“On the Street Where You Live” and other old favorites), the cantor sang.  Rabbi Stern welcomed us, and we all recited Psalm 23: “ . . . I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.”

The rabbi began the eulogies, continued by a daughter, grandson, and great-granddaughter.  All spoke of a man who began with nothing, and built a remarkable family, a career, and an unstinting commitment to the betterment of Dallas.  A man with an unwavering moral compass; several spoke of his “MELAK” test: is a proposed action moral, ethical, legal, and Kosher?  You can, and should, read his obituary here.  The rabbi noted, to laughter and many nods, that Liener planned the entire memorial; he was a precise fellow, and we were not surprised; he even chose a wonderful passage (author unknown) in the printed program; here is an excerpt:

Death is nothing at all. It does not count. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I. And you are you. And the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. What we were to each other still is. Speak of me in the easy way, which you always used. Put no difference in your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow . . .

A reception followed the service, more opportunity to celebrate his life, raise a glass, nosh a bit, hug more old friends.   At 5:00 I drove back to DFW Airport and after a storm delay, flew home, glad I made the effort.  Liener Temerlin made everyone, from janitor and me to the Chairman and CEO, feel special.  We will miss him.

On Thursday, January 26, I hopped bus and metro to the airport and flew to Philadelphia, then to New Haven’s tiny airport, bound for a weekend with son Jack.  We were home in 10 minutes – now that’s close-in convenience!  Climbed onto the inflatable bed in his living room and clocked out.  Up early Friday, out the door, Jack heading to work and me jumping in his blue Subaru and heading north and west into the ridges and valleys of the Appalachians, through old towns, then along the Housatonic River, pausing at a covered bridge, then into the pleasant town of Kent:

At 10:15 I rang the doorbell of Stephen M. Wolf, the man who hired me into the airline business in 1984.  He was President of Republic Airlines, and was engineering the turnaround of a broken airline.  I’ve just written a business-school case study of that transformation, and after talking with and emailing other former colleagues, I needed input from Stephen.  I had not seen him for decades, but we instantly fell into comfortable conversation, not only about the airline business (after Republic, he was CEO of United and US Airways) but about our lives.  His was a story of overcoming obstacles at a young age (his father abandoned the family when he was 15), and through grit making his way upward in the corporate world.  It was a delightful morning.  With our talk finished, he briefly showed me one of his hobbies, collecting old Jaguar automobiles.

I then drove 20 miles east to Litchfield, another lovely old town.  Parked on the village green and had lunch at the Village Bar, then motored a mile east to see another former Republic colleague, Sky Magary, who was the Senior Vice President, Marketing, and his wife Susan.  I had not seen them in 16 years, and it was grand to catch up.  At 4:30 I said goodbye and drove back to New Haven, taking a few wrong turns along the way.

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On the green, Litchfield

Jack, his friend Julia, and I headed out for a drink at a lively college bar, followed by a wonderful, spicy meal at Taste of China (doing big business on the eve of the Chinese New Year).  Julia is from a small town in Montana, and the story of making her way from the Bitterroot Valley to Yale was interesting indeed.

Saturday was relaxed.  We slept in until seven, went to the YMCA gym, lunch at Claire’s, a vegetarian standard for 40 years, then a walk through the Yale Art Gallery.  Took a nap.  Chilled with some televised golf.  At 5:30, we repeated our steps from last visit: burritos at Chipotle, enormous ice cream cones from the Arethusa Dairy Store, then a brisk walk north to Ingalls Rink and the Yale Bulldogs men’s hockey team vs. Brown (University) Bears.  We had cool seats right behind the goal.  After a lackluster first period, the Dogs came on strong, and beat the Bears 4-1.

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William Glackens, “Bathers, Blue Point Peach,” 1913, Yale University Art Galley

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Mask by 20th Century Yoruba (Nigeria) artist, Areogun-Yanna, Yale University Art Gallery

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Sunday was equally relaxed.  A good workout at the Y gym, shower, and an amble north to Da Legna, a newer pizza place.  Another outstanding Naples-style pie, bottle of local soda, Foxon Park White Birch (that’s the flavor, very distinctive), good conversation.

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The gulls on either ornamental sphere looked like they were part of the building!

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We walked home slowly, down Orange, one of New Haven’s historic streets, lined with interesting architecture (the whole city is filled with cool stuff from bygone eras):

Watched college basketball for awhile, then north to Hartford airport and a flight home.  A swell trip.

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Global Friends

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Global friends from the last two trips of 2016: Matteo, Alexa, Eva Rose, and Max

Most days when I am home, I walk Dylan and Carson to school.  It’s a short walk, but we have some interesting discussions along the way.  Yesterday, Carson and I had this exchange:

Carson: Potsy, why are all your friends in other parts of the world?

Me: You’re right, Carson, Potsy doesn’t have too many friends around here, but I have lots of friends all over the world, and I am lucky to have them.

Carson: How did you find them?

Me: Well, I’ve been traveling all over the world for many, many years, and along the way I made friends in lots of countries.

Carson: Like where?

Me: Well, remember before Christmas I went to Germany?  And when I was in Germany I saw old friends, like Patrick, Julian, and Martin, and made some new ones, Sven, Agnes, and Wiebke.  That’s a girl.

Carson: Do you know any Wolfgangs?

Me: No, I don’t think I do.  Wolfgang is a nice name, but not very common anymore.  Do you know any Wolfgangs?

Carson: Yes, Mozart.

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The Last Teaching Trip of 2016

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Jesuitenkirch (1711), Heidelberg, Germany

The last teaching trip of the year began on Saturday, December 3, up to New York and across to London.  Made my way to the home of longtime friends Scott and Caroline Sage and their cutie-pie, two-year-old, Eva.  Had a quick yak and a cup of coffee, washed my face, and walked back to the Bakerloo Line and into central London for an annual tradition, Advent service at St. Paul’s Cathedral – it was the fourth consecutive year.  The choir was great (when they would end a hymn, you could hear the music continue on into Wren’s soaring dome and back), a fine homily from the head of the Anglican Church in Canada, a time for renewal.

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Eva Rose with a book I brought her

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St. Paul’s outside . . .

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. . . And in.  The cathedral prohibits photographs, but I simply couldn’t resist a pic of the dome soaring above me . . .

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. . . Nor the noontime low sun shining near the choir benches and organ.  Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!

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The cathedral had varied exhibits commemorating the centenary of World War I, including this sample of embroidery as therapy, done by soldiers recovering from PTSD, or “shell shock” as it was known then.

After the service, I headed back to the Underground.  Waiting for my train, I spotted two small dogs getting off.  I caught the eye of a woman about my age walking a Welsh terrier:

Me: I’ve only been away from home 18 hours and already miss our dogs
She, without missing a beat: Would you like to give him a stroke?
Me: Yes, please.

He jumped up on hind legs, we had a few hugs and licks, and I said thanks.  Hopped on the Northern Line, riding north-northwest to suburban Hendon and the Royal Air Force Museum, last visited in 2004.  The collection and interpretation are good, not great, but the chance to touch a Spitfire fighter used in the Battle of Britain was way cool, as was the sight of a U.S. Army Air Force B-24 Liberator (beneath the bird was a plaque noting that 26,000 U.S. airmen died 1942-45).

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On a timeline of a century of flight, this tidbit from the 1970s; as a former owner of  Maclaren strollers, I have renewed respect for their Spitfire strength!

Headed back to the Sages for a good suppertime chat in the kitchen with Caroline, then sat down to a simple supper of vegetable soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.  She’s a fine cook.  We yakked a bit more, and at nine I headed to my room, not yet to sleep but to begin assembling an Ikea toy kitchen, a Christmas present for Eva.  It had been some years since I put together an Ikea product, but the basic logic came back quickly.  After an hour I was plumb wore out, so I put down the screwdriver and hex wrench and fell asleep.

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The completed project!

Woke up Monday morning at 5:40, resumed assembly, and was done by 7.  Showered, headed down to breakfast, then out the door on Scott’s bike.  Headed west on the towpath of the Paddington Branch of the Grand Union Canal, a waterway that runs 137 miles west to Birmingham.  The branch runs west-southwest, toward Heathrow Airport.   The first few miles were relatively crowded, mostly with work-bound commuters, and I rode carefully, steering clear of the water.  Parts of the path were bumpy, but it was a bright morning, and I worked up some momentum, riding 25 miles round trip.

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Swan traffic jam, Southall; I tread carefully, because 1) these critters belong to the Queen, and 2) they don’t move out of your way (maybe they know they’re royalty!).

After noon I headed into London for a spicy Indian lunch, bought Linda a Christmas present at Liberty, a wonderful old store, then walked west to Grosvenor Square and the U.S. Embassy.  The statue of General Eisenhower exerts some magnetic pull, and in no time I was peering up at Ike, whispering my thanks.  But, as I have written before, the fortifications around the embassy make me really cranky.  General Eisenhower was fearless, and now, the building behind me, indeed U.S. legations all over the world project a cowering fear.  Just so silly.

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Flowers next to my lunch table, Masala Zone, Soho

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Liberty of London, opened 1875

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The area around the Eisenhower memorial was disgracefully messy, because there are no trash bins nearby.  I wished I had a big plastic bag to clean up the litter.

I was tired of walking, so grabbed a red shared bike (at £2 for 24 hours, cheaper than a short ride on the Tube), and set off for the Battle of Britain Memorial near Westminster, then upstream along the Thames to Belgravia.  Worked for a couple of hours on my laptop, then walked to The Orange, a fine gastropub in Pimlico, where I met former American Airlines friend and fellow Minnesotan Don Langford.  We had a nice dinner and a fine yak.  Headed home, way worn out.

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Up early Tuesday morning.  The original plan was a morning flight to begin teaching in Germany, but British Airways canceled it 15 hours in advance.  I scrambled a bit, and booked Ryanair from Stansted to Dortmund.  I had used that flight twice before, and would have booked it originally, but wanted a bit more slack: scheduled arrival was 3:20 and my lecture an hour north in Münster would begin at 6.  Back at the Sages, I looked after Eva after Caroline left for work (Scott was working late the night before), had an all-too-brief chat with Caroline’s father, Michael, who stayed overnight in their other guest room.  Michael, 75, was still going strong, still working, still active.  Keep moving, that’s the idea!

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Boarding Ryanair 1788 to Dortmund: the democratization of flight always makes me smile, even when I’m stressing about being late.

At 9:50 I began to head toward Germany, by Tube and train via Stansted Airport (a truly bad airport, like an endless shopping mall).  My worry about cutting things too close became reality.  Ryanair was, uncharacteristically, 45 minutes late, then the regional train was almost 10 minutes late, putting me into Münster at 5:35.  It’s not a big place, and I know my way, so I “landed” in the classroom with six minutes to spare.  Just-in-time education!  The talk went well.  Afterward, my student host Julian, five doctoral students, and the prof, Sebastian, headed to a traditional restaurant, Töddenhoek, for my first plate of grünkohl, kale cooked with onions, potatoes, and ham.  German soul food, good for the 25% of me that comes from Deutschland.  After the meal I said goodbye and walked briskly across town to my Airbnb; it was my fourth time with Svenja, a friendly young woman who has a really comfortable apartment.  It truly feels like home.

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Prinzipalmarkt, Münster

Tuesday was a short night.  Up before six Wednesday, out the door at 6:30, onto the 6:33 bus to the train station.  The local train to Hamm was late, and I just barely made my connection to Hannover, then south to Kassel, a day trip to teach at its university.  Met my friend and host Patrick Rath at 10:35, headed to the uni, then a noon lecture to a large class of marketing undergraduates. The first question after the talk was about Trump and his insularity, which provoked a small rant on my part, and nods of accord from the students.  I told them their country seemed to be the last large place led by adults, by people who understood that things were not simple, and by people who understood that an open and liberal global system had served the world well for 70 years.  Many times during those days in Germany my thoughts returned to this idea: did it take the debacle of the Third Reich and the destruction of their country to embrace those ideals?

Patrick’s officemate Sven joined us for lunch.  Sven was from Leipzig and among other interesting things he told me that when he was in high school he and classmates made a video about Kurt Masur, the legendary conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and New York Philharmonic, and – unknown to many – a key figure in the collapse of East Germany.  Pretty cool.

We had a nice fish lunch in the university mensa (student cafeteria), a coffee, then walked over to Patrick’s apartment.  Picked up his son Louis from day care (what Germans call Kindergarten, this one a shining example of Germany’s large commitment to early childhood development), then over to meet kids from a student business group called CTK.  We had a short chat, then I delivered a two-hour lecture to about 25 CTK members.  After the talk, we walked to Kassel’s Christmas market for a cup of glühwein, spiced red wine.  I said goodbye to a dozen students, then jumped onto the tram to the train station.  More delays: my train was an hour late, but so was the one an hour in front of it, so I hopped on, made my connection in Hannover, and was asleep by 11:15.  A long day.

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Patrick and Louis Rath at Kindergarten

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The view from my bedroom window: sunrise and sunset, proof that the sun’s daily arc is small in the northern winter!

Slept in Thursday morning, until 7:20.  Put on jeans because my talk was not until that night, and headed out for coffee and breakfast, then over to the university’s Marketing Center.  It was my 16th visit to Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, and since 2002 I have gotten to know waves of grad students.  My longtime host Manfred was at Kellogg in Chicago (working with friend Anne, who introduced us years ago), but Julian and the doctoral students took good care of me.  I worked the morning, had a quick lunch with the team, then headed out to do a bit of shopping, by long tradition buying small guardian angels made in the Erzgebirge, low forested mountains on the border of Saxony and Bohemia (Czech Republic).  Walked back to the Airbnb and brought this journal up to date.  Svenja’s two cats both greeted me.  Momo is shy, but Findus decided my lap was a good place to stand while I tapped on the laptop!

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My office assistant Findus

Took a much-needed afternoon nap, the first one in a week, and at five set out for my evening gig, the 12th talk to a group called “Circle of Excellence in Marketing,” a select group of Bachelors and Masters students.  The “fireside talk” (called a kaminabend or kamingespräch) didn’t begin until eight, so I stopped in at the Pinkus Müller Brewery for a small cold one, then met my student host Julian and two other grad students, Nora and Charlotte, at 6:30 for another dinner of grünkohl, this time topped with a big slab of meatloaf.  Yum!  The CEM talk went well, but lasted past 10:30.  Said my goodbyes and walked a couple of miles across town, back home.

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It was another short night: up at six, out the door, repeating the journey two days earlier (this time without any train snafus), back to Hamm, then east to Hannover and south to Kassel.  The difference that morning was that Patrick Rath joined me at Kassel and we continued on.  The Friday-morning train was packed, and we stood the whole way to Frankfurt, yakking across a range of topics.  Hopped on the Taunusbahn suburban train for the ride to Königstein and my sixth visit to the Siegfried Vögele Institute, a training center owned by Deutsche Post DHL.  My job that evening was a dinner speech to a small group (seven) of EMBA students.

We walked from the train station to the institute, working up a major appetite (we intended to eat a late breakfast on the train, but the dining car was packed).  Once again, the institute’s chef, Heiko, delivered the goods, in that case a huge lunch of wildschwein (wild boar), slow-cooked and tender, with dumplings, brussels sprouts, salad, and a heavenly apple tart.  Whew.  Repaired to my room, worked a bit, took a long nap to catch up on sleep, then rode 14 miles on a bike in the gym.

At seven, I met the group – three were not from Deutsche Post DHL – and we tucked into a dinner of roast duck, red cabbage, and more.  I skipped dessert.  Gave a short talk after dinner, answered questions, and enjoyed some conversation with Patrick and others.  Each weekend of classes, one student brings food and/or drink from their region, so Beate brought Landskron beer from her native Görlitz, close to the Polish border, plus three flavors of glühwein, and schoko spitzen, chocolate cookies filled with raspberry jam, from Pulsnitz, near Görlitz   Whew!

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Although my conversational German is weak, I have a pretty good vocabulary, and am always happy to add to it; that night I learned waschbär und holunder.  The former means “raccoon,” the literal translation “washing bear,” because ‘coons habitually rub their front paws like they’re cleaning their hands.  The latter means “elderberry.”

Up the next morning, breakfast with the group, then Patrick and I walked briskly back to the station and hopped the 9:01 to Frankfurt, where we hugged, then split.  I headed east and south to Ulm, a mid-size city east of Stuttgart in the state of Baden-Württemberg.  By long tradition, I would have gone to Berlin to see the Beckmann family, but we were together in late September (still, it seemed a bit odd not heading to see Michael, Susan, Niklas, and Annika).

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Gingerbread house, bakery window, Königstein

I walked a short way from the Ulm station to my simple hotel, which was a stone’s throw from the city’s major draw: the largest Protestant church in the world, with the world’s tallest steeple, and a tower to the top, 768 steps.  Had to do it, and not just because Lutherans are my people!  Checked into the hotel (commenting on proximity to the church, the owner said “it’s like sitting in the front row at the cinema”), then made fast for the tower.  It took awhile to climb 469 feet, but had a nice T-t-S with Markus while inching up the last 200 steps.  Yes, the view was spectacular, and going down was easier on my gimpy knees than I thought it would be.

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The Ulm Minster (technically not a cathedral) from the main shopping street

Scenes from the top:

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Two-way traffic on the descent

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A nice reward at the end of the descent: an oompah band playing Christmas music

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The top of the top, viewed from the bottom: two visitors stand on the viewing platform.

Grabbed a quick lunch at a nearby bakery, then ambled about the Fischerviertel (fishermens’ neighborhood), seriously old and filled with half-timbered buildings built around two little tributaries of the Danube.  Walked across the Danube to Bavaria (the place is called Neu Ulm), then back to the hotel for a much-needed nap.

At five I headed back to the Fischerviertel and into the boatmen’s guild hall, the 550-year-old Zunfthaus der Schiffleute, for a Christmas beer.  The friendly bartender and I bantered in English and a little German.  The place was fully booked for dinner, but the barman told me if I returned at 6:30 I could sit at a tiny table in the corner of the bar.  I ambled around the area for a bit, had a short beer in a very unfriendly place, then returned for a nice dinner.

But a not-so-nice exchange.  I guess it was inevitable that at some point in my more than four decades of travel in Germany I would meet a bonafide German far-right redneck (oops, that may be redundant), and there was Josef standing next to me at the bar.  He asked me where I was from, and I told him.  He replied “Ku Klux Klan.”  I did not respond.  He then showed me some small piece of jewelry attached to a necklace and said “SS.”  I replied “God help us,” and did not engage during the time it took to eat my enormous main course.  I kept thinking, “get me outta this place.”  I paid the bill and rocketed away.  What an asshole.

Slept a long time.  Up Sunday morning, out the door for a walk around town, then into the big church for 9:30 Lutheran worship.  Attendance was larger than expected.  The hymns were unfamiliar, but melodies and words were simple, so I sang along.  The huge church would be impossible to heat, and it was right at 32° F outside, so most people helped themselves to red blankets from a large.  I’m from Minnesota, so I toughed it out, but it was pretty chilly!

After church, I ambled a few blocks to the Museum of Bread Culture, formerly the German Bread Museum, built in a 1592 grain warehouse.  I like bread, but the original impetus for the visit went back more than 40 years: the parents of my pal Tim McGlynn owned bakeries, visited the museum in about 1975, and brought back a postcard that lodged in my memory.

I was glad I went: the museum told the story of grain cultivation, breadmaking technology from 10,000 years ago to the present, bakeries, bakers, and more, all with wonderful artifacts, including paintings by famous artists like Brueghel, Chagall, and Dali.  Lots of “I didn’t know that” facts, for example, that in the 19th Century, bread products accounted for about 80% of a German’s daily nutrition.  And as expected in a country willing to frankly confront its past, even a specialized museum had exhibits about the Nazi debacle.  The museum was funded by the Eiselen Foundation.  Willi (1896-1981) and his son Hermann (1926-2009) owned a business that was a major ingredient supplier to bakeries.  The superb audioguide explained that both father and son knew hunger during the two world wars.  Remarkable.

Below:  Scenes from the museum: a kleiekotzer, roughly translated as “bran puker,” a common decorative element of small flour mills in Europe; bran is now a valued nutrient, but back then is was discarded; tabletop artwork with bread as centerpiece; a baker’s horn, used to announce that fresh loaves were available; a 17th Century painting; and a late-1940s CARE package from the USA, in the section on bread and hunger.

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A postcard version of this poster, announcing emergency food aid in nearby Karlsruhe during the Depression, was what stayed in my head for 40+ years. It’s easy to see why.

I left the museum, walked the town a bit more, then crossed the Danube into Bavaria, into the town of Neu-Ulm.  My eye caught the modernist St. John the Baptist Church built in the 1920s, then crossed the street to a small Christmas market, which in food and crafts exhibited an earthiness unseen in other December markets.  Inspired by the bread-as-80%-of diet fact above, and needing to eat less after a succession of huge, hi-cal means, lunch consisted of two hard rolls covered with sunflower seeds, a perfect repast.  Walked back to the hotel to get my suitcase, and had a nice chat with the young owner, Florian Röhrig, who bought the hotel two years earlier and was working hard to make it a success.

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Note the bottom of the sign: I was well familiar with New Ulm, Minnesota, Neu-Ulm’s sister city.

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Chapel, St. John the Baptist Church, Neu-Ulm

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Woodworker, Christmas market, Neu-Ulm

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Some last scenes of Ulm:

Hopped on the 3:51 ICE express to Stuttgart, cued some German composers on my iPhone, and sat back.  At Stuttgart, I connected to a local train, absolutely packed, and rode west to Durlach, an agreeable suburb of Karlsruhe, next stop on my teaching tour.   Walked some blocks to my hotel, the eight-room Gasthaus Zum Ochsen, in a splendid half-timbered house built in 1746.  After the right-size lunch I was hungry, and found sustenance less than two blocks away (the Ochsen has a superb, but very pricey, French restaurant), venison goulash, dumplings, red cabbage.  A multinational family sat at the next table, speaking mostly Spanish and German, but with some English.  When I got up to leave, I wished them “Muy buenas noches,” which launched a wonderful T-t-S in three languages.  The Germans were local, and the others were from Barcelona and Mexico City.  I mentioned Georgetown University, and the Spanish mother told me she had a son studying there.  I wrote down my email address and invited the student to be in touch.  We parted with a hug and two kisses!

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My seatmate on the train to Karlsruhe, mom reading an Astrid Lindgren Christmas story

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My digs in Durlach, a splendid old house

Up before dawn Monday morning and onto the tram, west to my fourth visit to the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), a place with a long history of serious brainpower: auto pioneer Karl Benz, electrical whiz Heinrich Hertz, and nuclear physicist Edward Teller all studied there.  I worked the morning, interrupting my labor for a little walk around town.  As I wrote in a 2015 post, a German artist, Gunter Demnig, began a multi-year project to remember Holocaust victims by placing brass “stumbling stones” (stolpersteine) on sidewalks in front of their former residences.  Online one can find lists sorted by city, so I looked up Karlsruhe and found that one memorial was quite close to KIT, and the surname, Ettlinger, was the same as older friend of mine, Harry, whose family departed Karlsruhe the day after Kristallnacht in 1938 (I emailed Harry, now 90, to see if they were kin, but have not heard back).

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At 12:30 met my host Prof. Martin Klarmann, plus doctoral students Max and Sven.  We had a long discussion on the way to lunch and at table about the current political messes in Europe and the U.S.  Sigh.  My scheduled 2:00 lecture was rescheduled to 5:30 because of room shortages, so I worked and read after lunch, and brought this journal up to date.  The spare office where I sat afforded a splendid view of parkland and the tower of the 18th Century castle that belonged to the Baden nobility.   Delivered a talk from 5:30 to 7:00, then hopped on the tram home to Durlach.  Changed into jeans and ambled across town to Der Vogel (The Bird), a brewpub.  Monday night in Advent, the place was hopping, but I managed to get a stool at the bar, and enjoy a Christmas beer and a plate of the Swabian version of ravioli (maultaschen).

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A small part of the massive Karlsruhe palace, just around the corner from the KIT campus

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The German Constitutional Court.  The court chamber is inside the brown-framed windows.  The building exudes openness and fearlessness: marks of a confident and strong democracy.

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Max, doctoral student and accomplished barista!

My scheduled 2:00 lecture was rescheduled to 5:30 because of room shortages, so I worked and read after lunch, and brought this journal up to date.  The spare office where I sat afforded a splendid view of parkland and the tower of the 18th Century castle that belonged to the Baden nobility.   Delivered a talk from 5:30 to 7:00, then hopped on the tram home to Durlach.  Changed into jeans and ambled across town to Der Vogel (The Bird), a brewpub.  Monday night in Advent, the place was hopping, but I managed to get a stool at the bar, and enjoy a Christmas beer and a plate of the Swabian version of ravioli (maultaschen).

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The view from my temporary office, KIT

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Mug commemorating the 500th Anniversary of the 1516 German Beer Purity Law

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City offices, Durlach

Tuesday was a day off, no teaching, and I planned a full day.  Out the door, back to the station, and onto a regional train to Heidelberg, the storied university town.  I had only been there once before, in 2005, but I remembered the basic layout, the old town south of the Neckar River.  Ambled through the old town to the core of the university (founded 1386) and the baroque Jesuitenkirch (1711), then back to Bismarckplatz via the river.  I was glad I stopped briefly, and was reminded that the geographer is an efficient tourist (riding the tram back to the station, mused about times when I got acquainted with a new landscape in just an hour or two, and immediately recalled Ottawa in 1993, New Orleans in ’77).

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Hauptstrasse, Heidelberg

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However interesting, Heidelberg was just a 90-minute detour from the main event of the day, a tour of BASF’s massive chemical works – the largest in the world – on the Rhine at Ludwigshafen, about 15 miles away.  Checked in at their visitor center an hour before the 1:30 (English-language) site tour.  There were no restaurants nearby, but I earlier scoped out something called the BASF Gesellschaftshaus, much like an executive dining room, and open to the public.  Posh, with prices to match, but had a plate of pasta and zipped back to the start of the tour.  There were only five of us, three BASF employees from India, one from Poland, and me.  We climbed on a fancy Mercedes tour bus and set off, zigzagging through the facility.  Vast doesn’t even describe it: within the complex are 200 separate plants, 38,000 employees (17,000 of whom arrive by bicycle, hooray!), consuming the same amount of power as the city of Hamburg.  The tour guide offered facts and figures nonstop, and by the end of the hour drive we had covered 10 miles inside the complex!

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The BASF Gesellschaftshaus

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A tiny part of the massive complex

The guide had impressive command of the plant and all that it made, and – in keeping with German forthrightness – he even told the tour about a fatal accident eight weeks earlier (three firefighters were killed after an explosion and fire when a propane line was accidentally cut).  No denial there, and I couldn’t imagine the equivalent U.S. company being so transparent.  Back in the museum-like visitor center, he also flagged a 1921 ammonia explosion that killed more than 500.  Lack of denial is always good.

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Bubbles and plastic: but two of many things BASF makes at Ludwigshafen

The exhibits in the visitor center told lots of stories and introduced us to the myriad products made with things from the complex.  Like 15% of the CO2 for Europe’s fizzy drinks, or synthetic indigo dye for blue jeans (the guide mentioned with some pride that BASF synthetic indigo launched German immigrant Levi Strauss’ denim business in faraway California).

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Exhibits: at left, bringing the periodic table of elements to life, and at right, the answer to a sticky question (I did not know how glue works, but now I do!)

We think of chemical plants as messy places, and a big chunk of the visitor center described their efforts to reduce emissions.  I don’t know how other big producers stack up, but I was impressed that 93% of the chemical raw materials that arrive at the plant are used, and only 7% are incinerated.  Other exhibits explained how various BASF products promote sustainability, for example, insulation for residences; a Paris villa renovated with their insulation products yielded an 87% drop in annual energy consumption.  German know-how!

After the hour site tour and 90 minutes in the visitor center I could absorb no more.  Hopped on a tram across the Rhine to Mannheim, worked my email, and at 5:30 met KIT host Martin, who offered a walking tour of the city before dinner.  We headed first to the university, built in a sprawling former palace.  As we walked, I learned a bunch more about Germany, including a fascinating intro to its ecclesiastical geography, which is way more complex than I thought (didn’t know that Calvinist reformers came north from Geneva, and squabbled with Lutherans about who had true Protestant theology).  I had passed through Mannheim many times on the train, and from the tracks you see lots of modern buildings, but on the tour we saw quite a bit of the central city that survived massive Allied bombing.  Martin even provided some marketing lessons, for example, when we stopped in a retail store of the coffee roaster Tchibo, which sold way more than coffee – clothing, cookware, toys, and I was astonished to learn they rotate 100% of their inventory every week.

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Mannheim monument to a famous son: Karl Benz

We walked on and on, then at 7:15 sat down to dinner at Marly, a one-star Michelin restaurant right on the Rhine.  It was a colossal dinner, five courses; most were small, but the roast duck main dish was not.  I was enjoying the meal, and especially conversation with Martin, who knows more about U.S. politics than I do, but was a little stressed about being 40 miles from my bed.  At ten, Martin suggested that we might amble back to the station.  Good idea!   Head hit pillow after midnight, a really full day, and way cool.

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Remembering: just outside my Durlach guesthouse

Wednesday morning, out the door and onto the tram to KIT.  Worked the morning in the spare office, and at 12:30 headed to lunch with Sven, Max, and Wiebke, a new doctoral student.  Had another plate of maultaschen, huge, then ambled back to campus to deliver the airline-pricing lecture to 20 undergraduates.  Changed into comfy traveling clothes, said goodbye, and hopped on the tram to the Karlsruhe main station, then north to Frankfurt, out to the airport, and onto an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin.  Before boarding, had a nice T-t-S chat with an Irish woman about my age, returning home after visiting her son and grandchildren in Frankfurt.  Her other son is a pilot for Aer Lingus, so we yakked briefly about the joys of the airline “magic carpet,” a perk that lets her visit her grandchildren every six weeks.

I woke about an hour earlier than expected, because Ireland is an hour behind Germany.  Step one was to iron my trousers, step two was instant coffee in the room.  Tucked into an enormous breakfast, including black pudding, the Irish version of blood sausage.  Rolled my suitcase to the bus stop, and hopped the #16 south a mile or so, then walked several blocks to Dublin City University, DCU.

Met my host Naoimh (pronounced “Neeve”) O’Reilly and some new faculty, and delivered a couple of lectures.  The semester had ended six days earlier, so I was honored and pleased that more than 50 students came back to campus to hear me speak.  The highlight of my fifth DCU visit was a short chat with Nimra Khan, in her final year.  When she entered the classroom, she looked familiar (maybe because you don’t see a lot of hijabs in Ireland); after class, she reintroduced herself, said she heard me speak in 2014, and thanked me for career advice I had provided back then.  But the best part was when she showed me her American Airlines ID card and spoke proudly of her new job in operations at Dublin Airport.  Moments like that are so joyful.

Ate a quick lunch with Naoimh and colleagues.  When I was planning the visit, I reckoned I had just enough time to zip downtown before heading back to the airport, so hopped in a taxi.  The driver was a total character, a man of strong opinions.  When I told him I was from Minneapolis, he asked, “Do you know the Juicy Lucy?”  I was astonished; the Juicy Lucy is an only-in-Minnesota food, a burger with cheese stuffed inside the meat, invented at a small tavern in South Minneapolis.  His accent was thick and he spoke softly, so I could not savvy how he knew about the sandwich, but he had never visited my home state.  Whew!

Even in mid-day, Dublin traffic is challenging, but at exactly 2:15 I rolled my suitcase into Mulligan’s, one of the world’s greatest drinking places, and greeted my longtime chum and former Aer Lingus executive Maurice Coleman.  We hoisted glasses, and crammed a lot of yakking into 65 minutes.  Hewing to timetable, I hugged Maurice precisely at 3:20, walked a couple of blocks, and hopped on the airport bus.  Flew back to Germany for the last lecture of the year.

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Several times that December 15, I celebrated the ten-year anniversary of being fully retired from corporate life.  It was a great decision.  And a couple of times I cued the soundtrack of the 2016 Irish film “Sing Street”; the lyrics from the cut “Drive It Like You Stole It” fit perfectly:

I heard an angel calling
This is your life
You can go anywhere.

 Landed in Düsseldorf at eight, hopped the S-Bahn downtown, and walked a few blocks to the hotel.  Checked in, changed out of the suit, and headed across the street for a late dinner at Uerige, a city institution.  Up Friday, out the door, and a mile to the Düsseldorf campus of WHU, the private business school I’ve visited for almost 20 years.  Met my host Jochen Menges and delivered my “ten things” leadership lecture to 11 engaged MBA students: 5 Germans, a Finn, Argentine, Pole, New Zealander, and Chinese, and an American, Nishant from California.  A great group, and as always, my thought was “these people are the future, and that makes me confident we are in good hands”:

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Peeled off at 12:30, hopped on the subway back to the main station.  At one, I met Tobias Hundhausen, a young German pal I’ve known since he was an exchange student at SMU in Dallas.  We had not seen each other for 30 months, and it was great to catch up on his new wife, new job, and coming new baby.  And to enjoy a swell lunch in an atmospheric old brewpub (called a hausbrauerei), Füchschen, in the Altstadt.  Tobias lived nearby, and knew the place well.  We parted and I headed back to the hotel.

Worked a bit, walked the town, and at 5:15 ambled into another brewpub, Schumacher.  The place was packed, but I found a chair in the corner of the front bar, and settled in to watch the scene of holiday merriment.  In that part of Germany, beer comes in one and only one size, 0.2 liter (not quite 7 ounces), which means you might have a few over the course of several hours, as I did, chatting with folks who sat at the table.  Like the Dutch couple who asked “Do you have places like this in America?”  Emphatically not, I replied.  Every half-hour or so, we heard the loud pop of a fresh keg being tapped, traditional oak barrels.   The last T-t-S in Germany was at table with two brothers, Peter and Roland, and their wives, both named Gabi.  They spoke zero English, so the chat was rudimentary, accented with plenty of laughs.  In between, I tucked into my third plate of grünkohl; my trip goal was four, well, close.  Kissed the two Gabis and shook hands with the brothers as I left, happy to have met them.

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Waiter at Schumacher with lots of glasses of altbier

Up way before six Saturday morning, homeward bound at the end of a long but fine trip, most of the time in Germany, such an admirable place.  Hopped on the ICE, which at a max speed of 186 mph got us to Frankfurt Airport in a little over an hour.  Onto the Silver Bird to Charlotte, where things slowed down because the connecting flight was first late and then broken.  Silver lining was a wonderful T-t-S with Salisha, an actor in the traveling troupe of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” and (drum roll) Miss California World.  Just a delightful person.  Finally rolled up the driveway at 11:15.

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Salisha and her tiara

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